NBA Miami Heat

Top 5 Players in Miami Heat History

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The Heat Elite

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Every sports franchise has its collection of greats. Some more than others and some share the same greats, but each professional team can point to a group of players that has helped build the organization.

For the Miami Heat, they have a handful of greats that have developed the relatively young franchise into the powerhouse that it is today.

Miami entered the NBA in 1988 and won their first championship in 2006. Although the beginning years were tough, as they are for any expansion franchise, the Heat slowly developed into a top tier team and have remained as part of the NBA elite for nearly a decade.

Thanks to great minds like Pat Riley, Mickey Arison and Erik Spoelstra, the South Beach team has been the creator of envy for all other owners and players throughout the league. However, thanks to even greater talents like Chris Bosh, Tim Hardaway, Shaquille O'Neal, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, the Heat have become a premiere destination for players all over the globe.

Teams like the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics have a long list of greats and Hall of Famers who have created storied franchises with a long, deep and rich history. For Miami, the history is a bit more condensed and the the great players are limited, but that doesn't mean they fall short on talent or success.

Here are the top five players in Heat history that have and continue to rewrite the record books of a young organization that continues to dominate the Association.

Shane Phillips is a Miami Heat Writer for Follow Shane on Twitter @Smphil01, "Like" him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.

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5. Tim Hardaway

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Even though he didn't bring a championship to South Beach, Tim Hardaway is still one of the greats for the Heat. During his five and a half seasons with Miami, Hardaway averaged over 13 points and six assists each season and helped pave the road for Wade and James. Hardaway also played alongside another Heat great, Alonzo Mourning, and they were the first dynamic duo for the young South Beach franchise.

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4. Shaquille O'Neal

Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

Superman, the Big Diesel or just simply Shaq. Call him what you may, but Shaquille O'Neal earned the No. 4 spot when he helped Wade bring the first NBA title to South Beach in 2006. There's no doubt that O'Neal is one of the all-time basketball greats, winning titles with both the Lakers and Heat. Thanks to O'Neal, Miami's launch into the league elite was made possible and Wade became the face of South Beach.

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3. Alonzo Mourning

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Alonzo Mourning's comeback from a kidney transplant alone makes him a feel good story and a Heat great. Add his role in Miami's first title and Mourning earns the No. 3 spot on the list. Not only did he stage an amazing comeback and usher in the first championship, but he also remained with the organization after retirement and has done some amazing work for the city of Miami and the South Florida community. Honestly, you can't help but love the guy.

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2. LeBron James

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Some might argue that LeBron James is the best player in Heat history and he will obviously go down as one of the greatest to ever play the game of basketball. It's a legitimate argument considering he has won consecutive titles and league MVPs since relocating to South Beach in 2010, but he is only the second best player in the history of the Miami organization.

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1. Dwyane Wade

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The one player who can top James for the best player in Heat history is the one player who has spent his entire career in South Beach. This player has spent a dedicated decade playing for Miami. He's the one player who put the 300-pound Shaq on his back and carried him to the Heat's first title. He's the one player who took a pay cut and made the "Big 3" possible. He's the one player who set his ego aside and allowed James to be the new star of South Florida because he wanted more championships. That one player is Dwyane Wade.

Alongside Riley, Wade has made the Heat franchise what it is today, and if it wasn't for him the "Big 3" would never exist and James might still be ring-less. Because of everything he has done, Wade is the best player in the 25 year history of the Miami Heat.